Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Points of Unity on Gender Liberation

Document Outline

  1. We are committed to full gender liberation.

  2. We live in a capitalist patriarchy fundamentally opposed to gender and sexual freedom.

  3. We must understand the current conjuncture of capitalist patriarchy.

  4. We use a feminist method combining theory and collective action.

  5. We are committed to feminist, queer, and trans liberationist organizing.

  6. We must challenge gender and sexual oppression as it arises in our own organization and work.

 

  1. We are committed to full gender liberation.

1.1 As Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad, we are committed to the work of building a communist society of full and complete gender liberation. Gender liberation goes beyond mere equality, but requires the fundamental transformation of society , as well as all existing social, political, and economic institutions. The full flourishing of humanity requires everyone to have the opportunity to self-determine their own gender and sexual identity and expression, to pursue consensual pleasure, and to have full sovereignty over their own body. Sovereignty over one’s body includes right to refuse or agree to sexual pleasure, the right to change one’s body to correspond to a self-determined experience of gender, and whether, when, and how to have or not have children. Such freedom requires living without social, cultural, economic, or political oppression of their gender or sexuality. We are committed to eradicating the social bases that enables pervasive rape, sexual assault, gendered violence, and intimate abuse. In a free society, gender and sexuality will no longer serve as a basis for the division of labor; the inequality of wealth, time, or self-determination; or the distribution of violence and premature death.

1.2 We join with the struggle against gender and sexual oppression both in society at large, and within movements against capitalism and white supremacy. We are committed to expressing this vision of gender and sexual liberation in all aspects of our political practice, mass organizing, and revolutionary activity. Women, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people have played leading roles in all social movements. With them, we are committed to a practice of combating sexism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity within our movements and integrating a feminist and pro-queer lens into strategy and program. Further, we join with the advanced currents of movements for sexual and gender liberation, and recognize the value of independent movements of women, queer and trans people in the struggle for human emancipation.

  1. We live in a capitalist patriarchy fundamentally opposed to gender and sexual freedom.

2.1 We live in a patriarchal society, a white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. By patriarchy we mean systems of male supremacy that have developed and changed historically, today taking a very specific form in capitalist society. Capitalist patriarchy systematically shapes all major social institutions, the distribution of resources and power, and the material life choices available to people. Through these material pressures, it enforces a coercive system of binary gender, degrading the dignity, bodies and life chances of women and sexual and gender minorities. Throughout history, capitalist patriarchy has, through white supremacy and colonialism, imposed racialized forms of gender and sexuality that further degrade, control, and exploit women and gender minorities of color. For this reason, whenever we use the term capitalist patriarchy, we are naming a system of white-supremacist, heteronormative, and cis-male-supremacist capitalism.

2.2 The exploitation of women has been integral to capitalist society. Capitalism has always relied on the massive appropriation of the work, reproductive capacities, and lives of women, as well as sexual and gender non-conforming people. Capitalism relies on women’s unwaged labor bearing and raising children, on other forms of unwaged reproductive labor in the home, and on women as super-exploited waged workers and members of the reserve army of labor. This has taken different forms over the course of capitalism’s development. During capitalism’s early development, we see coordinated state efforts to brutally crush women’s social power developed in non-capitalist societies, and to both force and limit women engaging in wage labor. The capitalist class directly and indirectly profits from the many forms of women’s unwaged and waged labor.

2.3 The exploitation and oppression of women, and the violent regulation of sexuality, has been a foundation of U.S. capitalist development and empire. The U.S. capitalist economy was built on slave labor, with its gendered dynamics: upper class white women excluded from wage labor, and Black women coercively forced to work. Interracial relationships between Black men and white women were violently prohibited. Rape of Black women by white slave owners was built into the system of slavery. The conquest of North America and genocidal military campaigns against Native American people deployed sexual violence against women as an integral tactic. Further, conquest sought to obliterate the forms of gender flexibility and sexual diversity common in Native cultures.

2.4 Capitalist patriarchy is enforced and enabled through violence and terror. Women and gender and sexual non-conforming people are the targets of rape, intimate partner abuse and murder. This violence and terror is entrenched throughout capitalist patriarchy through both institutionalized social practices and economic inequality and cultural norms. These systematic forms of violence create an overall environment of terror makes people more compliant in their homes, and more vulnerable to greater economic exploitation. This atmosphere of terror damages psyches and undermines attempts to create egalitarian relationships between people.

2.5 Capitalist patriarchy reaches into our daily lives and into all social classes. Gender and sexual oppression shape our workplaces, our family lives, our organization, our intimate relationships, and our understanding of ourselves. Capitalist patriarchy shapes the nuclear family as a system of possession, control, domination, and exploitation. Though gender and sexual oppression is inseparably tied to capitalism, the behaviors, attitudes, practices, and expression of such oppression is not limited to the capitalist class. Sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia exist in all social classes, and work to divide and weaken working class struggle. Ultimately, male privilege and the oppression of women and queer people damages the humanity, freedom, and dignity of all people. 

2.6 Capitalist patriarchy operates through cultural values, ideology, and socialization. In support of the violence and exploitation of women and queer and trans people, capitalist patriarchy also works through our culture, our ideas about gender and sexuality, and how we raise our children. Each of us grows up with a way of seeing the world shaped by capitalist patriarchy, and this distorting lens damages our ability to love each other and ourselves. Each of us must work to unlearn this oppressive framework to become a revolutionary, a feminist, and a more whole person. We need the valuable tools of radical cultural work and art, as well as experimentation and innovations in modes of parenting, relationships or coming together in social life. These bolster and support struggles against the material underpinnings of capitalist patriarchy.

2.7 Capitalist patriarchy limits reproductive freedom. All people have the basic right to reproductive freedom, including the right to determine if, when, and under what conditions one gives birth; the right to the ability to raise children in a safe and fulfilling environment; and the right to have consensual sexual pleasure. During the early development of capitalism, the capitalist class and state worked to violently subordinate women’s reproductive capacity by forcing childbearing or punishing women for living alone, or using contraception. In the 1960s and 1970s, women fought two major battles for reproductive freedom, struggles that continue today: for access to legal and safe abortion, and against state-imposed sterilization. The U.S. government coercively sterilized Black American, Native American and Puerto Rican women. Many transgender men and genderqueer people share with women these fights for reproductive freedom as the physical control over their capacity to give birth. Queer, gay, transgender, and genderqueer people struggle for reproductive freedom in the right to raise children and establish families against homophobic custody, adoption, and family laws.

2.8 Capitalist patriarchy enforces a binary gender system. Our society divides people into male and female, using violence, cultural expectations, economic coercion, and other social practices to enforce this division throughout life. Closely interrelated with heteronormativity, the binary gender system enforces a narrow regime of what is defined as normal. They both work through cultural expectations, socialization within the family, and widely-held social values. The binary gender system fundamentally counter to human freedom. Gender fluidity, gender transgression and gender diversity is a precious part of all human societies and culture throughout history. European colonialism imposed the binary gender system across the world through genocide and conquest. The binary gender system bolsters other elements of gender oppression. Both women and men may suffer from the narrowness of gendered expectations and allowed gendered expression. The binary gender system is especially brutal for the many people who transgress its constraints: intersexed people born with non-standard gendered bodies, transgender and transsexual people who identify with a gender or form of gender expression different than they were assigned, genderqueer and gender non-conforming people whose gender identification and expression is not reducible to male or female, and the many other examples across of gender fluidity and transgression. As this system of capitalist patriarchy targets trans and gender non-conforming people of all genders, we understand it to be specifically cis-male-supremacist.[1]

2.9 Capitalist patriarchy enforces compulsory heterosexuality. Class-stratified societies have depended on the successful social reproduction of heterosexuality. The authoritarian socialization of children—necessary for both the enforcing gender norms and reproducing a compliant labor force—demands the suppression of the full diversity of human sexuality. Compulsory heterosexuality establishes clear rules of hetero- and cis- male solidarity and stabilizes a male-dominated family and the social order that rests on it. Compulsory heterosexuality defines a narrow range of sexuality and gender expression as normal, and then targets and marginalizes all those unable or unwilling to conform. This system is enforced through a variety of means ranging from violence (queer bashing) to shame and humiliation. We refer to this system as heteronormativity. Each person’s full humanity depends on having the social space to explore, embrace, and express their own sexuality. We understand the moral limits of sexuality as constituted by the bounds of consent, safety, and mutual respect, not cultural judgment.

2.10 The family has a dual character in white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy: both as a common source of loving support and as a source of violence. For many, families are a crucial source of love, material support, and aid in struggle. Black liberation movements, for example, have been sustained through Black families passing on legacies of resistance and rebellion. Yet for many women and queer people, families or romantic partners can be sources of violence, coercion, and abuse. This dual character is rooted in the contradictory role families play in capitalism: Capitalists have depended on families, particularly the unpaid work of women, to reproduce, care for, and socialize the next generation of workers. To do so cheaply, families have some independence from the direct control of workplaces. Instead, the capitalist class uses both state policies and cultural ideology to regulate families. For many working class cis men shaped by this patriarchal ideology, the family becomes the one place where they can exercise dominance and control. Working class cis men are not more violent than men of other classes, though violence may play out differently based on class. The family, then, is a site of struggle and contradiction.

2.11 Capitalist patriarchy is inseparable from class and racist oppression. Capitalism and white-supremacy interpenetrate all aspects of gender and sexual oppression. Though all women and queer people suffer under capitalist patriarchy, gender and sexual oppression affects people differently based on their social class and race. Women of color, as well as queer and trans people of color, face particular forms of gendered state-terror, through police brutality, mass incarceration or military occupation. Women in the multi-racial working class are super-exploited for their waged and unwaged labor, face gendered discrimination in the labor market, and are vulnerable to gendered violence and the many forms of workplace sexual harassment.

2.12 The struggle against gendered and sexual oppression must challenge white-supremacy and capitalism. The struggle for gender and sexual liberation has long been divided along class and racial lines. Though we support the struggle for all people for basic democratic rights, we challenge those currents of feminist and gay movements that pursue narrow social gains that are primarily benefit only wealthy, white women or gay people. Instead, we ally with the advanced elements of these movements lead by working class female, queer and trans people of color. Their life experiences demonstrate the deep interconnections of white supremacy, capitalism, national oppression, and patriarchy.[2] As such, their struggles tend to concentrate the antagonisms of this society and the fight for their total liberation poses the most thoroughgoing challenge to the existing oppressive order. Grappling with these struggles is therefore of importance to all revolutionaries.

2.13 Capitalist patriarchy is inseparable from imperialism. The imperialist capitalist class depends on the waged and unwaged exploitation of women across the world. Reproductive and gendered work is organized through a global division of labor between the imperialist global north and the people and nations of the global south. Core capitalist countries depend on the labor of women from the global south, both as manufacturing workers in their countries of origin, and as immigrant workers in low-wage reproductive, service labor industries. U.S. military aggression and economic policies abroad has disastrous effects on the lives of women abroad. The context of empire, in turn, shapes and enables the character of capitalist patriarchy in the global north.

2.14 Needed reforms in gender and sexual oppression, but not full liberation, are possible under capitalism. The specific dynamics and logic of the exploitation and violence of women and gender and sexual non-conforming people have changed significantly over the course of capitalism’s development, and will continue to change. The struggles of women, gay and queer people, and trans people have won real progress in challenging forms of gendered and sexual oppression exploitation and violence. These struggles must continue, and will likely continue to see further victories, even under capitalism. But full gender and sexual liberation is only possible through socialist revolution, and a depth of social, cultural and political transformations that necessitates the eradication of capitalist modes of production, the capitalist state, and private property. Gender liberation requires altering the basic rules of governance and economic relationships to an extent impossible in a capitalist society. Unfortunately, we have many examples of past socialist movements and governments that have ignored issues of gender and sexual oppression. The socialism we fight for must consistently advance towards full gender and sexual liberation.

  1. We must understand the current conjuncture of capitalist patriarchy.

3.1 Capitalist patriarchy is changing. Capitalist development is producing major changes in the organization of gendered and sexual oppression. As this is a unity document meant for use over decades, this section is relatively short. We advocate the left and our organization engage in a repeated renewal of careful study and attention of the changing, conjuncture dynamics of gender and sexual oppression to assess strategic sites of struggle and social forces, and develop effective program and strategy. Here we identify four important trends since the 1970s: women’s growing involvement in wage labor, the commodification and privatization of reproductive labor, the right mobilizing against the rights of women and sexual minorities, and the limited victories of democratic rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Each of these is an expression of a common underlying dynamic: the long-term restructuring of the family under the current period of capitalist development. We need further research, theory and forms of struggle to fully grasp this transformation.

3.2 Women are working more in waged employment. Recent decades have seen the massive global growth of women’s participation in waged labor. In global north, this has been driven by changes in industry, the attack on working class wages, and women’s struggle itself. The growth of employment and working hours among professional, mostly white women in the U.S. and Europe has depended on the reproductive labor of their families being done increasingly at low-wages by immigrant and Black women. In the global south, women’s growing labor market participation has been forced by the decimation of rural agricultural communities, and enabled by industrialization and the growth of a manufacturing sector that relies on women’s labor. In the U.S., African-American and immigrant women have always worked in large numbers. This growth of women’s wage work has transformed the terrain of working class struggle, highlighting the fundamental necessity of gendered analysis and strategy in organizing the multi-racial working class. It has also had a major impact on family life, gendered cultural expectations, and women’s movements.

3.3 Reproductive labor has become a growing industry. The global north has seen an intensifying commodification, marketization, and privatization of reproductive labor, largely the work of immigrant and Black women. “Reproductive labor” refers to all those tasks that prepare people to be able to go to work the next day, to raise the next generation, or to care for those who can no longer work: education, healthcare, childcare, eldercare, laundry, cooking, and much more. Historically, these tasks were done in the home or by the government, but increasingly they are done through private, for-profit industries by wage workers. These care workers are disproportionately African American and immigrant women. This transformation of reproductive labor has given rise to several parallel struggles. Many public-sector workers, and the working class communities that depend on public sector institutions, have fought back through defending public schools, advocating for affordable healthcare, and opposing government budget cut-backs. For those in the lower-tiers of the working class, this privatization has meant a crisis of survival, as basic social and health services are increasingly unavailable. Lastly, women of color in the growing reproductive care industries, both public and for-profit, have fought over working conditions and wages. This includes struggles among hospital employees, school teachers, home health aids, daycare workers, or social service workers. These reproductive industries are strategic sites of organizing and struggle.

3.4 The Right mobilizes through anti-feminist, anti-sex, anti-queer and anti-trans politics. The last four decades have seen the ascendancy of a populist, right-wing, neoconservative politics that has combined racism, anti-working-class policies, religion, and an opposition to the rights of women and sexual and gender minorities. The Right uses anxiety about the crisis and transformation of the patriarchal family to mobilize against reproductive rights and basic democratic freedoms for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; two issues joined through their moralistic attack on non-marital sexual pleasure. Right ideology places the family at its center, treating the patriarchal nuclear family as the basis of social order. The U.S. right has aggressively exported these anti-queer and anti-sex politics abroad, through U.S. foreign aid policy, and religious missionary work. Anti-gay violence in western Africa has grown as a direct result of U.S. evangelical proselytizing. Left forces must counter the homophobic, anti-feminist politics directly, through embracing a progressive sexual and gender politics linked to economic and racial justice.

3.5 Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender people have won tremendous victories in democratic rights through massive, sustained organizing. Through mobilization and protest, people in same-sex relationships have won the right to marry, granting gay couples some social benefits afforded only to married people. This is a major advance for democratic rights. Transgender people, after decades of organizing and militancy, have recently been winning new protections against discrimination, and are rising in national attention. Despite these victories, the lives of poor queer and trans people of color continue to worsen, facing widespread exclusion from the labor market, severe poverty, state violence, and incarceration. This division highlights the urgent need for working class and people of color leadership and left politics in gay and trans movements.

  1. We use a feminist method combining theory and collective action.

4.1 Our feminist theory informs our organizing; our experience in organizing informs our understanding of gender oppression and liberation. There are enormous challenges in front of us as we tackle these systems. To most fully take on these challenges as revolutionaries, we need to develop sophisticated forms of practice that struggle with the realities of white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. We struggle for a Marxist praxis of gender liberation through cycles of theory and practice. We develop theory, test it in our organizing, sum up and evaluate the results of our organizing, and use that summation to develop deeper theory and more effective practice on the next try. This Marxist, feminist practice, creates the conditions that facilitate political, emotional, psychological, and material transformation by waging fights strategically and consolidating power through the process.

4.2 We have much to learn from recent theoretical advances of feminism. Within the past 40 years, there have been significant breakthroughs in thinking around gender and its relationship to liberation movements broadly. Breakthroughs include analyses of gender: as socially constructed; as a false binary; as intersected by class and race; as a force that has shaped every element of human culture, beliefs, and practice as well as every social and economic institution. Though we are not in unity on the ultimate character of gender, such investigations and debates are a valuable contribution to revolutionary thought. These breakthroughs have given us a sharper understanding of exploitation yielded by global imperialism and how capitalist political economy shapes our lives within the US.

4.3 We are guided by a form of intersectionality rooted in a materialist critique of capitalism. Recent feminists have rightly pointed to the inter-locking and interrelated character of multiple forms of oppression, called intersectional analysis. Unfortunately, academic thinking on intersectionality has been overly tied to a rejection of Marxism, a rejection of systematic analysis of capitalism, and an over-elevation of individual experience and cultural representation. Instead, we draw on a legacy of revolutionary socialist Black feminist thinkers like Claudia Jones, Audre Lorde, or Combahee River Collective, seeing the need to link an understanding of multiple interlocking structures of oppression to the collective struggle to overthrow capitalism as a material system.

4.4 Personal transformation is not enough. Feminist thinking and movements have done much to politicize personal experience, individual relationships, and family life. This centering of the personal dimensions of oppression is a valuable antidote to their total de-emphasis by previous waves of revolutionary struggle, and recognizes that gender and sexual oppression shape intimate parts of our lives. Unfortunately, as mass feminist and other movements have waned, increasingly feminism has defined in individualist, isolating and exclusively personal terms. Personal transformation alone does not challenge the systematic, institutional and pervasive character of gender oppression. Gender liberation requires collective, mass struggle. We need to model new practices and ways of relating to one another as a part of a collective, mass struggle of destroying system-wide structures of capitalist patriarchy.

  1. We are committed to feminist, queer and trans liberationist organizing.

5.1 Our commitment to gender and sexual liberation shapes our strategy and program. Our mass and organizational work is guided by our feminist, queer and trans liberationist politics. We use a lens of gender and sexual politics, combined with our understanding of capitalism and white supremacist oppression, to shape each aspect of our organizing. Our understanding of capitalist patriarchy and gender liberation must inform how we identify strategic sectors of organizing, our analysis of the divisions and obstacles faced in specific conjunctures of struggle, what transformative demands to raise and reforms to fight to win, and how we measure our advance towards socialism.

5.2 We support all movements against gender and sexual oppression. We support the movements for basic democratic rights by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people including the right same-sex marriage, the struggle against employment discrimination, and organizing against anti-gay violence. We support women’s struggles for access to abortion, against gendered wage inequality, and against gendered violence. This includes movements by and for sex workers, often opposing state criminalization. These are important fights, and we see the need for all mass organizations to support them. Further, we see these struggles in a broader context of the fight for human emancipation, recognizing victories as provisional steps towards fuller gender and sexual liberation. We especially join those leading currents of these movements, often poor and working-class people of color, and the advanced demands and strategies they pursue. For example, though we support the democratic right to same-sex marriage, we also join with more radical queer activists who reject the state’s role in elevating any consensual family structure over another, and who call for universal access to healthcare and social benefits rather than distributing them through marriage status.

5.3 Women, queer, and trans people are crucial leaders in all liberation struggles. We strive to prioritize and lift up the leadership and issues of women, queer and trans people in our organizing and on the left. The leadership of working-class female, queer, and trans people of color is especially central to building long-term revolutionary change in the U.S. Throughout U.S. history and today, we see the leadership of working-class women, queer, and trans people of color bringing innovative strategies, approaches to organizing, and analysis that has offered liberation movements major breakthroughs. Further, the issues and concerns raised from these communities must be taken up broadly by the left and by social movements. When left movements and organizations have been dominated by men, they have suffered, have been unable to unite the class, and far too often exhibit male chauvinism. In all our work, we see the need for collective practices that value the experience of women, queer and trans people. Where women, queer and trans people have historically been excluded from leadership roles, we support collective practices to prioritize their experience, and to provide support in developing skills to play leading roles in mass organizing.

5.4 We support independent women’s, queer and trans movements. As well as supporting the leadership of women, queer and trans people within broad movements against capitalism and racial oppression, we also recognize that at times it is strategically appropriate and necessary for oppressed gender people to organize in independent, autonomous organizations for their own issues and concerns. Independent feminist and queer organizations are an important part of the left. Especially when sexism and homophobia dominate the left, independent organizing by women and queer people can forge new strategies, organizing practices and theory that lays a foundation for future emancipatory movements and a more principled future unity. Unlike some socialists, we do not see separate queer and feminist movements as undermining the struggle for socialism and against white supremacy. Further, we uphold the right of women and queer people to form independent, autonomous caucuses as needed within socialist organizations, labor unions, and mass social movements.

5.5 We support efforts to create families as places of love and collective rebellion. We must strive to create the material and cultural conditions for each person to be able to build families based on love, mutual support, and respect. Such a task requires embracing the many forms of non-traditional families people create to survive; insisting the state recognize and honor the many forms of consensual families; creating alternative means of care and survival for those who need to separate from their families; providing collective support for the work of families, such as affordable childcare; challenging abuse and violence within families; and welcoming families as an central part of movement building and the left.

5.6 We challenge the reactionary currents of feminism. Unfortunately, under the banner of feminism some women have organized for socially regressive and reactionary ends. Self-identified feminists have targeted and excluded trans women from women’s organizing, oppressively enforcing the gender binary. Other self-identified feminists have worked to criminalize sex work, thereby increasing the state repression on sex workers themselves, over and against the demands and concerns of sex work activists. Conservative feminists have supported the expansion of policing and incarceration as the go-to response to sexual assault. Such over-reliance on state violence-based solutions are inadequate and racist, and do not stop sexual assault. Lastly, some pundits for U.S. empire use narrow feminist ideas to justify imperialist aggression against Muslim-majority countries, with devastating consequences for the women in these countries. We call out and challenge conservative, racist, imperialist, or anti-trans politics even when it identifies itself as feminist. Instead, we argue feminism must be committed to trans liberation, anti-imperialist, and in opposition to carceral state violence.

  1. We must challenge gender and sexual oppression as it arises in our own organization and work.

6.1 Sexual and gender oppression are reproduced throughout our movements, doing lasting damage to the left. Male chauvinism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia damage our organizing, divide our communities, and weaken our power. When movements have tolerated gender and sexually oppressive attitudes, behaviors, and practices, they are less able to wage mass struggle, less able to unite the working class and communities of color, and less effective in pursuing political victories. We challenge such oppression in our own organization and mass work. There are several specific places we see the need to challenge past and current oppressive practices.

6.2 We challenge expressions of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and male chauvinism in our organization and mass work through direct confrontation and skillful comradeship. Sexual and gender oppressive behaviors and attitudes among our comrades need to be directly confronted and criticized whenever and wherever they appear. Such confrontation, however, is not seeking to humiliate comrades, nor to exclude them from organizing unless absolutely necessary, nor to relate to each other with harshness or cruelty. We believe it necessary to be both militant and caring. We challenge oppressive behaviors because we yearn for every one of our comrades to come to their fullest potential, because we love each other and cannot allow sexism and heteronormativity to divide us. Many cis men enter radical movements without a previous understanding of the importance of feminism or queer and trans liberation. Our movements and organization need to educate and transform, not just reject, such men.

6.3 We challenge the minimizing and trivialization of womens, queer and trans issues. As we are an organization that prioritizes the strategic alliance between the multi-racial working class and national liberation movements as the crux of socialist revolution in the U.S., there is a danger we could reproduce a common problem in the left: treating the concerns, demands and issues of women, queer and trans people as secondary, as trivial, or as unimportant in our work. Even as we prioritize certain movements in our mass work, we must constantly be attentive to the importance of feminist and queer and trans liberationist analyses and struggle.

6.4 We challenge the currents of working class and Black liberation movements that work to strengthen the heterosexual, patriarchal nuclear family as an institution or ideal, or defend cis male supremacy. In the history of communist movements, we see chilling examples where working class advocates argued for reforms—such as exclusion of women from certain industries—based on the strengthening of cis male power within the family. Similarly, some currents of the Black Liberation Movement continue to argue, falsely, that establishing patriarchy in the Black family would strengthen the Black freedom struggle. We strongly disagree, and challenge these male-supremacist attitudes and politics throughout our work. To be clear, misogyny and homophobia are a problem in all social movements and communities; we point to these two struggles because they are particularly central for our work and politics.

6.5 We challenge the gendered division of labor common within our movements. We identify two shifts necessary within our organization and mass work: cis men taking on a greater share of logistical, care, and relational work, and women being supported in playing leading roles in theoretical and political strategizing. We cultivate and support the developing leadership of women, queer and trans people within our own organization. Due to gender and sexual oppression in society at large and in the left, too often straight cis men move into positions of leadership, monopolize organizing resources and skills, and suppress other sources of leadership. As a necessary antidote to such tendencies, we make particular efforts to support women, queer and trans people to develop leadership skills, and to step into leadership roles with support from the organization, particularly in theoretical development and strategic planning. Meanwhile, cis men need to step up into tasks usually assumed by women and gender non-conforming people: the grunt work of making meetings happen, the emotional support of other comrades in times of difficulty and crisis, and the emotional management and mediation of conflicts and interpersonal tensions. We work towards a transformation in what constitutes leadership towards practices of mutual care, uplifting others, and supporting each other towards developing our strategic and organizing capacities as communist militants.

6.6 We do not tolerate rape, sexual assault, intimate partner abuse or sexualized cis male chauvinism in our organization. We recognize that sexual violence is particularly oppressive and traumatic, and cannot be tolerated. For other forms of oppressive sexist behavior, we see a need to challenge our comrades with compassion, working towards their transformation and understanding. But in a small socialist organization, such a process is not possible or realistic when it comes to harm as serious as rape. If it becomes clear a member of our organization has raped or intimately abused another person, they will not be permitted to remain in the organization, and the organization will follow the lead of the survivor seeking justice.

We offer this unity document as a step on the road towards full gender and sexual liberation, socialism, and the richest expression of our humanity. May it encourage reflection, conversation, and deeper practice with each other. Our struggle can link us together with love and transform us collectively.

[1] “Cis” and “cisgender” came into use in the 2000s to refer to people who are not transgender. Cis men are men who were assigned male at birth, and who were raised as male. Trans people, by contrast, usually refers to people who identify with a gender or genders differently than that which they were assigned at birth. Many gender non-conforming people have diverse forms of identification and language to describe themselves. We affirm the right of people to self-determine the language used to refer to their own genders.

[2] By national oppression, we refer to the violent domination and exploitation of groups of people who share a common culture, history of struggle, and link to a particular geographic area. National oppression is a key dimension to white supremacy and racism in the U.S. empire. Freedom Road understands African-Americans and Chican@s as constituting nations with the right to self-determination, formed historically within the borders of the United States. National liberation struggles, particularly the Black freedom movement, is central to the fight for socialism in the U.S.